Pubdate: Sat, 30 Sep 2000
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
Copyright: 2000 The Dallas Morning News
Contact:  P.O. Box 655237, Dallas, Texas 75265
Fax: (972) 263-0456
Author: Natalie Gott / Associated Press

Notes from MAP:
Cited: Journey for Justice:
Updates: By Kevin Zeese from the Journey are at: and
Bookmarks: MAP's link to Texas articles is:
For Journey for Justice Protest news items:
And 33 more Tulia, TX items:


Suit Accuses Swisher County, Officials Of False Arrest

AUSTIN  A lawsuit was filed Friday against two law enforcement agents, a
district attorney and Swisher County for their role in an arrest stemming
from a much-criticized drug bust in Tulia in 1999.

Forty-three people were arrested in the bust. Forty were black, and the
other three, two whites and a Hispanic, are said to have ties to the black

About 40 residents of the northwest Texas town of 5,000 rallied at the steps
of the Capitol as Will Harrell, executive director of Texas American Civil
Liberties Union, announced the lawsuit.

They were joined by dozens of others from a group called Journey for
Justice, which has been traveling across the state, calling for an end to
the war on drugs.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Yul Bryant, who was arrested in July 1999
for allegedly selling cocaine just a few months earlier.

His case was dismissed, however, when Swisher County District Attorney Terry
McEachern found out that undercover agent Thomas Coleman was not sure that
he had purchased cocaine from Mr. Bryant.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Amarillo, accuses Mr. McEachern, Mr.
Coleman and Swisher County Sheriff Larry Stewart of falsely arresting,
imprisoning and prosecuting Mr. Bryant, who is black, for a crime he did not
commit. Swisher County also is accused in the lawsuit.

"These unlawful actions were part of a deliberate plan, scheme and policy of
targeting members of the African-American community of Swisher County,
Texas, and removing them from the area using the legal system," the lawsuit

Mr. Bryant is seeking $2 million in damages.

The lawsuit claims that Sheriff Stewart prepared a list of local residents
and others he considered "undesirables" before enacting a policy to
strong-arm them out of Swisher County. Most of the people listed are black,
the lawsuit claims, and Mr. McEachern was part of Sheriff Stewart's plan.

Mr. Coleman was put to work as an "undercover agent" to try and help Sheriff
Stewart, the lawsuit said.

Sheriff Stewart would not comment on the lawsuit. Mr. Coleman did not
immediately return telephone calls made by The Associated Press.

Mr. McEachern, who prosecuted many of the drug cases, says he does not
believe he did anything wrong and that he dismissed the case as soon as he
found out Mr. Coleman was not sure Mr. Bryant had sold him the drugs.

"I don't seek to prosecute somebody that my undercover agent isn't
absolutely 100 percent sure," Mr. McEachern said. "He told me he was 90
percent sure, but that's not enough for me."

Of those arrested in the same drug bust as Mr. Bryant, 17 have pleaded
guilty and 11 have been convicted.

LaWanda Smith, one of those arrested who has since entered a plea, said the
situation is unfair because the cases against most of the 43 people rest
solely on Mr. Coleman's word.
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MAP posted-by: Don Beck